Today’s ITV action takes place at Ascot and Haydock. Please see below a detailed preview from Katie Midwinter for this afternoon’s racing.
2:25pm Haydock – Complete Unknown 0.5pt E/W @ 9/1
3:00pm Haydock – Bristol De Mai 0.5pt E/W @ 10/1
3:35pm Haydock – Truckers Lodge 0.5pt E/W @ 7/1
1:50pm – Graduation Chase (Class 2)
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls saddled last year’s winner in the race, the talented Bravemansgame, and Hitman is the yard’s representative this time around. He has finished second in his last two races, behind Fakir d’Oudairies at Aintree in the Marsh Chase last season before finding Riders Onthe Storm better in his reappearance last month. Last Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Ga Law finished third in the Old Roan at Aintree, a length-and-a-quarter behind Hitman, receiving 17lbs.
Despite being in good form and running consistently well, Hitman often bumps into horses that perform better on the day, and he struggles to get his head in front in competitive races. His last win came in a three-runner affair and he has won on soft, therefore conditions should be to suit the progressive gelding and he is open to further improvement.
Itchy Feet is an interesting contender, best priced at 13/2 as the outsider of the field. He’s run fairly well fresh in the past, finishing second to Allmankind in a quality renewal of the Old Roan on reappearance last year. In his subsequent appearance he finished runner-up to Bravemansgame, less than three-lengths behind the winner, before claiming fourth-place in a tight-knit affair in the Fleur De Lys.
Olly Murphy’s contender stays well which could be the deciding factor if the rainfall forecast at the track turns the race into a tough stamina test. It could become a slog and he should be able to cope with that if it happens. He has been pulled up in his last two runs but he did suffer an injury at Kelso and perhaps didn’t stay in a good Betway Bowl renewal. This is his first run following wind surgery and, whilst he may come on for the run, he appears great value at the prices.
2:25pm – Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 1) (Premier Handicap)
This competitive handicap is a lively betting race with joint-favourites Run For Oscar and Might I currently both priced at 9/2 and bigger are the rest. There appears to be plenty of each-way value in the field, and there are two that could be worth keeping an eye on.
The first of whom is another from the Nicholls’ yard, Complete Unknown. It will be interesting to see how he gets on in open company in his first run of the season. In-form jockey Harry Cobden is onboard, performing exceptionally well of late with a 46% strike rate in the past fortnight.
The Dylan Thomas gelding finished second to Mahler Mission when last seen in April, with Dan Skelton’s Galia Des Liteaux in third. Skelton’s mare won a Mares’ Listed Novices’ Chase comfortably at Bangor-On-Dee last week, looking strong as she put in an impressive performance. It’s a decent form line for Complete Unknown, who appears to have plenty in his favour and may not have many excuses if he performs below par on Saturday. He stays this trip well and has coped with soft ground in the past.
Another one to watch is David Pipe’s Brinkley for Brocade Racing. He was third over a trip just shy of three-miles on heavy ground at Chepstow when last seen in February, not at his best there but giving plenty of weight away to the first two home. The seven-year-old gelding is 4lbs lower here and has won twice on heavy ground in the past, including when winning at Exeter last year where he beat a field that included Does He Know. He could be a decent each-way selection at 14/1.
Course and distance winner Wholestone is capable of outrunning his huge odds for Nigel Twiston-Davies and may be able to reverse form with Good Risk At All over the trip in softer conditions. The market suggests a huge gulf in class between the two at this stage but Wholestone’s run here in February was extremely impressive after such a lengthy layoff and he could be another to consider in the field.
3:00pm – Betfair Chase (Grade 1)
A Plus Tard was an impressive winner of this race twelve months ago, recording a twenty-two-length victory over Royale Pagaille. Bristol De Mai was pulled up late on having been hassled for the lead by the eventual runner-up, and perhaps wasn’t suited to the Good To Soft ground conditions.
The winner was breath-taking and went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. It’s clear to see why he is the current odds-on favourite for this year’s renewal and if he is anywhere near his best, it’s difficult to see him being beaten. It is a small field this time around with only five declared entries, with the outsider of the field Frodon likely to be taken out if the forecast rainfall has the expected effect on the ground.
A horse that will thrive in soft or worse conditions is the popular grey Bristol De Mai. Twiston-Davies’ eleven-year-old gelding is attempting to emulate four-time winner of the race Kauto Star. He loves the track and conditions may be perfect for him come Saturday. He put in a gallant effort carrying top weight in the Grand National Trial here in February, beaten only by The Galloping Bear and showing he still possesses plenty of ability.
There is a special aura about him that will give fans the belief that if anyone could topple the favourite, it could be him. At the prices he represents some decent each-way value, and may possibly be worth a bet in the ‘without the favourite’ markets. It’s likely the race will be a tough stamina test, and Bristol De Mai will be most effective in a slog.
Skelton’s Protektorat finished a good third in the Gold Cup but has plenty to find to reverse form with A Plus Tard. He has coped with softer conditions in the past and is a progressive type, capable of showing further improvement now as a seven-year-old. Eldorado Allen may struggle over the trip on heavy ground around Haydock, and may lack the stamina required to compete. He possesses plenty of speed and over a shorter trip he would be in contention. His price of 28/1 reflects his chances in this five-runner field.
3:35pm – Handicap Chase (Class 2)
Course and distance winner Lord Du Mesnil appeared overpriced when he lined up at odds of 33/1 at Bangor-On-Dee last week. He eventually finished second, four-and-three-quarter-lengths behind winner Le Milos, and is 1lbs higher here. The nine-year-old has plenty of experience in staying races and will relish the challenge on rain-softened ground. However, he may be slightly short in the market at his current price of 5/1 off a mark of 146.
He must carry top weight, as will Good Boy Bobby, and that could be a tough task in what could turn out to be a significant stamina test. He is 3lbs lower than his last winning mark and, whilst he is in with a chance, he may be vulnerable to others who are better off at the weights.
Current market leader Houston Texas is bidding for a four-timer for Nicky Richards, running off a mark 19lbs higher than when he began his winning sequence. If able to handle the step up in class and 6lbs rise following his last win, he could be dangerous. He is a progressive type and a number of the yard’s horses have been performing well in recent weeks, most notably Crystal Glory who enjoyed a twenty-length success over Rapid Flight at Hexham on Wednesday.
The form of Philip Hobbs’ horses raises cause for concern in regards to the useful Musical Slave, but Monviel did record a victory for the stable on Friday at odds of 15/2 and the yard’s form could be improving.
One to consider is Truckers Lodge, an interesting contender for Paul Nicholls. Young jockey Freddie Gingell takes the ride, claiming 10lbs aboard the gelding who last entered the winners’ enclosure back in March 2020 when comfortably winning the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter. He was 5lbs lower there, with 3lbs claimed off his racing weight, and the jockey booking this time will give him an easier task in the weights to some of his rivals which could prove crucial in the closing stages on testing ground.
2:05pm – 1965 Chase (Grade 2)
In recent years the 1965 Chase at Ascot has been won by a number of top-class equine talents. At the beginning of the last decade, Master Minded recorded back-to-back wins in the contest, before being emulated by his stablemate Al Ferof when he recorded his second successive win in 2014. Both trained by Paul Nicholls, the pair, along with Politologue and Cyrname in recent renewals, have contributed to Nicholls becoming the most winning trainer of the contest with seven victories.
There are two runners based at Ditcheat declared for this year’s renewal, but the leading trainer may only saddle one runner on Saturday. Hitman is doubly declared, with his first preference as Haydock, and may skip this tricky test for an easier assignment up north. Saint Calvados will be running in David Maxwell’s colours for the first time, with his new owner taking the ride aboard the nine-year-old gelding. He faces a tough task to topple the odds-on favourite, with Venetia Williams’ L’Homme Presse clear favourite to record his sixth victory over fences.
Williams’ yard has been in poor form in recent weeks, failing to record a win and underperforming when perhaps more has been expected from a number of horses. Whilst this is usually a concern, L’Homme Presse should have the class to reign victorious and provide his stable with a much-needed success.
The Brown Advisory winner goes well fresh but may have hoped for slightly easier conditions, with the ground drying out at Ascot. There was a deluge of rain when he ran at the Cheltenham Festival, and he seemed to thrive in conditions when others faltered. He normally jumps cleanly and will be expected to improve with age and experience.
Do You Job is declared for this race despite running at Ascot today (Friday). He will need to find more if he does line up, whilst Coole Cody makes a quick return to a racecourse after being pulled up early on in last Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup.
2:40pm – The Ascot Hurdle (Grade 2)
Despite having a potential superstar as an overwhelming favourite (at odds of 1/5) in The Ascot Hurdle at 2:40pm, the race just shy of 2m4f appears to be an exciting and interesting contest. Nicky Henderson’s Constitution Hill should make his seasonal reappearance a winning one, 15lbs clear of the field on ratings and ever-improving.
The five-year-old gelding could get even better with age and was last seen winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by twenty-two-lengths to stablemate Jonbon. He blew the field away in the first race of last season’s Cheltenham Festival and begins his new campaign here, with the end goal likely to be a mouth-watering clash with unbeaten mare Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle. He faces four rivals here, a number of whom could cause some problems in the race.
Brewin’upastorm is becoming increasingly frustrating to follow, unreliable in the past year and prone to making mistakes. On his day he is a talented hurdler but he fell at the last on the first day of January in the Relkeel Hurdle, was pulled-up at Aintree in April, before unseating his rider at the first when seen earlier this month. He did record a win in a lesser three-runner race at Lingfield earlier in the year, but was headed by Botox Has in his following run when more was expected of him.
Goshen is another with a similar profile, inconsistent and unable to show the best of his ability on most outings. Gary Moore’s gelding has become a favourite for many following his desperately unlucky unseating of Jamie Moore at the last in the Triumph Hurdle two seasons ago. He had been set to record an overwhelming victory in the Grade One contest before bad luck struck, and didn’t appear to be the same horse following the incident. He looked back to his best when winning the Grade Two Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last year, but was disappointing in the Champion Hurdle and connections have reverted to running him predominantly on right-handed tracks since. He was a distant fourth in this contest last year, as the wonderful grey Buzz recorded a fourth success for Nicky Henderson, with previous winner, the late, great chestnut Song For Someone finishing second.
The six-year-old has to give weight away to his rivals and, with the tendency to run quite keenly, he could be lit up by another livewire in the field, For Pleasure, who will want to get on with things early and may get into a battle with Goshen which could prove detrimental for both parties involved.
Bridget Andrews rides outsider of the field Uhtred, who is 8lbs clear of For Pleasure on ratings but is available at a much bigger price. He is yet to impress in two starts for Dan Skelton after making the switch from Joseph O’Brien’s yard in Ireland. If it turns into a messy race, he could be one staying on strongly towards the end, able to preserve energy and gradually get into the race for second.
Constitution Hill appears to be a completely straightforward and professional horse, capable of putting in a spectacular performance in this field and increasing the excitement at the possibility of an incredible race at Prestbury Park in March. If he is able to stay out of trouble and run his own race, jockey Nico de Boinville possesses experience and class and should guide him to a comfortable victory.
3:15pm – Handicap Chase (Class 2)
Edwardstone has to give plenty of weight away to his rivals here, but only last Sunday we saw two high class performances by both Does He Know and I Like To Move it, respectively, carrying top weight to victory up the hill at Cheltenham. Alan King’s horse is well clear of his rivals here and will be expected to put in a good performance.
He was impressive in his Arkle success at Cheltenham, beating a decent field including Gabynako and yesterday’s Grade Two winner at Clonmel, Blue Lord. When last seen at Aintree in April he was beaten by a promising horse in Gentleman De Mee, with perhaps the effects of a tiring season taking its toll on the gelding. He is the one to beat here and if he is able to carry the weight effectively the 11/4 widely available could turn out to be a good price.
Thyme White put in an excellent performance at the track last month and must be respected, but was given a 7lbs hike for his success and can make mistakes when jumping. There’s plenty of each-way value in the field, but on form the others have to improve to overturn the favourite and it may be worth sticking with Edwardstone in this contest.
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